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Federer, Sampras© Getty ImagesRoger Federer has a chance to break Pete Sampras' record of 286 weeks as World No. 1 and tie his mark of seven Wimbledon titles.

ROGER CHASES HISTORY, AGAIN
What would Roland Garros and Wimbledon be without history on the line? Between the dominance of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, record-watching at two of tennis’ most hallowed grounds has become an expectation in recent years.

In 2007, Federer tied Bjorn Borg’s mark of five consecutive Wimbledon titles. In 2008, Nadal matched Borg’s four straight Roland Garros triumphs. In 2009, Federer completed a career Grand Slam at Roland Garros and followed with victory at the All England Club to become the all-time Grand Slam titles leader.

This year, there are two records to watch for.

The first is Pete Sampras’ all-time mark of 286 weeks as World No. 1, and once again, the script couldn’t have been written more perfectly. As he begins his Roland Garros title defence, Federer stands two weeks back of Sampras’ record reign. But this year’s clay-court major comes complete with a three-way battle for the No. 1 South African Airways ATP Ranking.

A semi-final showing will ensure that Federer maintains the top spot at the end of the fortnight, but anything less will open the door for Nadal and Novak Djokovic to interrupt the Swiss’ date with history. (Read Shark Bites)

Following Roland Garros, and his first grasscourt event at Halle, Federer heads to SW19 with an eye on a record-tying seventh Wimbledon title. Sampras currently shares the record with William Renshaw.

In Federer’s favour? An impressive track record. He has reached the semi-finals in the past 23 majors, last failing to do so in 2004 when he lost Gustavo Kuerten in the Roland Garros third round. The Swiss has been among the last two men standing in Paris for four years running, and has also reached the Wimbledon final the past seven years.

After winning the Australian Open title for the first time since 2007, Federer also has a chance to go for a calendar year Grand Slam. But standing in his way with be Nadal, who enters Roland Garros in formidable form.

RETURN OF A KING
After going 11 months without a title, Nadal returned to clay in April and extinguished all concerns about his form. He lost just 14 games in five matches at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters – the fewest he’d dropped en route to a title in his career. He rolled to victory at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, matching Andre Agassi’s record of 17 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles at 23 years of age. And he became the first player to sweep all three Masters 1000 clay titles for the first time in a season as he defeated Federer at the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open.

“To be the first player to [win all three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay court tournaments] is unbelievable,” he said after the Madrid final. “I would never have dreamed that I would be able to do so… For me it’s a dream to have won the three [tournaments] before Roland Garros. I want to enjoy that now and we’ll see what happens in two weeks.”

DOUBLES MILESTONES
Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan’s strong start to the 2010 season resulted in a couple historic feats. During the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships in February, the 32-year-old American twins became the first team in the Open Era to win 600 doubles matches. Three months later at the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open, with a circuit-best fifth title of 2010, the Bryans matched Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde’s record mark of 61 team titles.

Bahamian Mark Knowles also celebrated a milestone in April at the Barcelona Open BancSabadell, becoming the fifth player in ATP World Tour history to record 700 doubles match wins.

MOTHER NATURE PLAYS A ROLE
In the wake of two devastating earthquakes early in the 2010 season, ATP World Tour players including Federer and Fernando Gonzalez spearheaded efforts to aid the victims. In between ‘Hit for Haiti’ charity exhibitions at the Australian Open and the BNP Paribas Open, ‘Champions for Chile’ at the Sony Ericsson Open, player auctions, and donations from the governing bodies, the tennis community raised close to $2million for relief efforts.

The ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland, meanwhile, wreaked havoc on travel throughout Europe – creating an extra challenge for players and staff looking to make their way from one tour city to the next. With planes grounded, players looked to other alternatives.

To get to the Barcelona tournament, Nadal and Andy Murray made the seven-hour drive from Monte-Carlo, others rode a bus rented by the ATP, while Jordan Kerr took a gamble – hitching a ride with a stranger from the Austerlitz train station in Paris. (Read story) A month after the eruption, John Isner scrambled to make it in time for his first-round match in Madrid; 21 hours after leaving Belgrade, he finally arrived in the Spanish capital via Frankfurt and Barcelona. (Read story)

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